Berber tattoos on the decline in Morocco

These two women are part of a minority who still have Berber tattoos.

Fatima Masoudi, 89, and Ighoudane Taguelmane, 86, live in Khemissat, a Berber town in Morocco.

Masoudi always wanted to get a tattoo, especially because it was a common thing to do when she was young.

“One day when we were transferred to town, I decided to do it. I was 14 years old, I asked my mother to do it but she refused, ”says Masoudi.

“At that moment, despite her refusal I decided to do it, I went to a tattoo artist, I did it so that I was beautiful, but unfortunately my mother and my grandmother did not accept this gesture.”

Despite his family’s disapproval, Masoudi has had tattoos several times, on his chin, neck and arm.

She chose different patterns which are symbols of Berber culture.

Taguelmane had a reverse experience with tattoos: she was forced by her mother to do one at a young age.

She was tattooed between her eyes and on her chin.

At that time, tattoo centers were considered beauty salons, a place that women used to go to look pretty.

But the process was painful.

“There were several tattoo designs and each one chose what they wanted, they used black charcoal, then sewed up the skin with a needle and placed the substance through those openings and wounds to stay inside the skin. skin “, explains Taguelmane.

” This operation was very painful, then I waited a week until there was a scab on my face, then I took it off, at that point you can see the final result of the tattoo.”

Tattoo artists also use salt water and herbs for sterilization.

Historically, the origins of such tattoos are difficult to pin down.

“There is no exact date, but what is known is that the Berber tribes, from the ancient drawings that were found in the caves, and on the basis of certain books and sources that spoke of the tattoos in Berber tribes go back thousands of years, ”explains Mohamed Es-Semmar, historian.

The Berbers lived in several Berber regions of North Africa and often lived in mountainous and desert areas.

Most of the symbols used in tattoos are inspired by nature.

“Amazigh people use many symbols, in various types of carpets, ornaments for women, as well as in tattoos,” says Es-Semmar.

The symbols were plentiful, such as triangles and semicircles. They are found in earrings, bracelets, anklets. These symbols are also found in many Amazigh dresses and costumes, whether for women or men. And also we find several symbols in the utensils of the house, and we also can not forget the architecture, for example, wood, gypsum, and also the stone engraving, always the same symbols that they used in The tatoos.”

Symbols can, among other things, have meanings related to strength, energy, fertility, healing, and protection from envy.

Berber tattoos were used to determine tribal affiliation and identity, indicate the marital status of women as well as whether they were ready for marriage.

They were also performed for aesthetic and therapeutic reasons.

“The Berber tattoo was totally different from what we see today, it had several meanings and several patterns, each one has its own definition, but today this modern tattoo that we see, is not mine, he comes from other countries and young people prefer him and do it too, ”says Masoudi.

Tattoos weren’t limited to women, but men were much smaller and inconspicuous.

Nowadays, if Berber tattoos are difficult to find, it is because of a larger phenomenon.

“Tattoos have largely disappeared among the Berber tribes due to the fact that the Berber tribes have disappeared. Is there still a tribe? Berber society has changed,” explains Es-Semmar.

Others also tend to have their tattoos removed for religious reasons.

“When I did the tattoo I didn’t know it was forbidden in Islam, when I went to the pilgrimage I asked about it and they told me there was no problem, because when I did it I didn’t know anything, but despite that I’m scared and I want to take it off “, says Taguelmane.

Tattoos have started to disappear since the 1960s, and with them a part of Berber culture.

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About Wesley V. Finley

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